Retinopathy of Prematurity

About Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) occurs when blood vessels behind the eye grow abnormally. ROP is a leading cause of childhood blindness in the United States and throughout the world. 

Premature infants who were born at or before 30 weeks gestational age are at the highest risk of developing ROP. In babies born prematurely, the blood vessels behind the eye have not yet finished developing. Sometimes immature blood vessels do not mature normally. This is influenced by many factors related to prematurity. One of these factors is the exposure of the developing eye to higher oxygen levels than would occur in the womb.


Babies who are considered a high-risk of ROP are examined in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) by Columbia's ophthalmologists. Our specialists dilate the baby’s eyes using eye drops.

The examination takes approximately 10 minutes and allows the ophthalmologist to determine whether the baby has ROP.

The initial eye examination is usually performed when babies are between 31-33 weeks of corrected age. Depending on the initial examination findings, babies receive follow-up eye examinations every 1-2 weeks. 

Treatments We Offer 

The pediatric ophthalmologist may use a special camera to take pictures of your baby’s retina. In most cases, the disease is usually mild or moderate. In these cases, the ROP gradually disappears within several months, without needing any treatment other than careful monitoring by an ophthalmologist. Vision in these babies develops normally if no other eye problems occur. 

If the disease is severe, it may cause problems such as retinal detachment, which can result in blindness. These cases of severe ROP may be treated with laser and other surgical procedures, which can significantly decrease the risk of visual loss.

Why Choose Columbia?

ROP is a scary condition for any family of a premature baby to have to worry about. At Columbia, our experts provide timely treatment with laser or intraocular medication to prevent the chance of blindness. You can trust us to give your baby the best chance at a lifetime of healthy vision.